THE CUCKOO.

OUR first introduction to the Cuckoo was by means of the apparition which issued hourly from a little German clock, such as are frequently found in country inns. This particular clock had but one dial hand, and the exact time of day could not be determined by it until the appearance of the Cuckoo, who, in a squeaking voice, seemed to announce that it was just one hour later or earlier, as the case might be, than at his last appearance. We were puzzled, and remember fancying that a sun dial, in clear weather, would be far more satisfactory as a time piece. "Coo-coo," the image repeated, and then retired until the hour hand should summon him once more.

To very few people, not students of birds, is the Cuckoo really known. Its evanescent voice is often recognized but being a solitary wanderer even ornithologists have yet to learn much of its life history. In their habits the American and European Cuckoos are so similar that whatever of poetry and sentiment has been written of them is applicable alike to either. A delightful, account of the species may be found in Dixon's Bird Life, a book of refreshing and original observation.

"The Cuckoo is found in the verdant Woods, in the coppice, and even on the lonely moors. He flits from one stunted tree to another and utters his notes in company with the wild song of the Ring Ousel and the harsh calls of the Grouse and Plover. Though his notes are monotonous, still no one gives them this appellation. No! this little wanderer is held too dear by us all as the harbinger of spring for aught but praise to be bestowed on his mellow notes, which, though full and soft, are powerful, and may on a calm morning, before the every-day hum of human toil begins, be heard a mile away, over wood, field, and lake.

     

Toward the summer solstice his notes are on the wane, and when he gives them forth we often hear him utter them as if laboring under great difficulty, and resembling the syllables, coo-coo-coo-coo.

On one occasion Dixon says he heard a Cuckoo calling in treble notes, Cuck-oo- oo, cuck-oo-oo, inexpressibly soft and beautiful, notably the latter one. He at first supposed an echo was the cause of these strange notes, the bird being then half a mile away, but he satisfied himself that this was not the case, as the bird came and alighted on a noble oak a few yards from him and repeated the notes. The Cuckoo utters his notes as he flies, but only, as a rule, when a few yards from the place on which he intends alighting.

The opinion is held by some observers that Nature has not intended the Cuckoo to build a nest, but influences it to lay its eggs in the nests of other birds, and intrust its young to the care of those species best adapted to bring them to maturity. But the American species does build a nest, and rears its young, though Audubon gives it a bad character, saying: "It robs smaller birds of their eggs." It does not deserve the censure it has received however, and it is useful in many ways. Its hatred of the worm is intense, destroying many more than it can eat. So thoroughly does it do its work, that orchards, which three years ago, were almost leafless, the trunks even being covered by slippery webbing, are again yielding a good crop.

In September and October the Cuckoo is silent and suddenly disappears. "He seldom sees the lovely tints of autumn, and never hears the wintry storm-winds' voice, for, impelled by a resistless impulse, he wings his way afar over mountain, stream, and sea, to a land where northern blasts are not felt, and where a summer sun is shining in a cloudless sky."


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